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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

An Open Letter to Elected Republicans

November 6, 2012 1 comment

Hey guys,  I know it’s been a little bit of a rough day/night for you, and I want to be sympathetic, but I won’t pretend I’m not pretty pleased with the outcome. We all know that you and I have our differences. I imagine losing the presidential election to the incumbent despite poor economic conditions is pretty sobering. You’re probably looking in the proverbial mirror wondering what went wrong. More importantly, you’re probably wondering where does the party go from here. You tried the maverick in 2008. You swung right with the Tea Party in 2010. You went with prototype president version 2.12 in 2012. And yet, Barack Obama is still the president.

There are a number of possible reactions. Was Romney too moderate? Should the party push farther to the right? Maybe the party should continue to blur the lines between being a Republican and a Libertarian. There’s always the option of using a vast media propaganda machine to undermine the legitimacy of the 2012 elections, thus undermining the legitimacy of the Obama administration (thus also undermining the entirety of the American political process, but that’s collateral damage deemed worth it to many). Of all the reactions that you could have, however, I would like to offer one simple suggestion.

Govern. I know, it sounds crazy, right? But after 4 years of trying tooth and nail to limit the actions of the government and the administration, you’ve received a loss. The plan did not work. In 2014, and again in 2016, if you want to make gains and see results, perhaps you should consider giving the people something concrete for which they can vote. Show us that you can work with others and not just against them. We understand that you’re really good at obstructing. We realize that the congress elected in 2010 passed the least amount of legislation of any in recent history by a long shot. Well done.

Now, in a center-right country with a weak economic recovery, you still lost to a Democrat. Maybe what’s missing is the “center” in the center-right. Maybe the rigid adherence to ideology at the expense of results is holding you up. Maybe, over the next two to four years, you should try to give the people something to vote for instead of someone to vote against. Move on from this loss quickly; don’t dwell on the election and try to undermine its results or question its mandate. And when you move on and return to legislation, don’t point fingers across the aisle, but instead look inward and ask, “what can I do within my principles and within the legislative reality that will improve my country?” Try for collaborative accomplishments. I promise you, this strategy more than any other will lead to the results that you want. Until/unless that happens, look for more of the same: a center-right country begrudgingly electing Democrats.

Good luck,
Max Gross

On The Second Presidential Debate… and how stupid it was

October 17, 2012 1 comment

Tonight was a fun night to love politics. I went to an event where a room full of policy students watched the debate together. There was some mild frustration, there were a lot of laughs, and there were some tense moments that drew audible reactions. And somewhere in the middle of it all, it hit me just how stupid this whole spectacle was.

Look, there are plenty of issues to discuss from the debate. There were plenty of potentially big moments. The fact checkers will assuredly be busy. But does any of it matter? Much as cable news has devolved into entertainment, so too has political discourse–and no longer only from the talking heads. The candidates for the highest office in the land themselves are engaged in entertaining the viewers.

In the first debate, Mitt Romney was “aggressive,” which meant he interrupted. That scored well, so now everyone interrupts everyone–each other, moderators, and I’m pretty sure Obama interrupted himself once, though that may have just been a stutter. Romney said he had binders full of women, and the internet lit up with a facebook page and a blog of memes posted before the debate even ended. Obama said that the gang-bangers should be deported, and facebook newsfeeds and twitter went wild. I’m part of this. I enjoyed it. I thought that it was all pretty hilarious.

Did you see what happened when the candidates got a chance to talk to a Hispanic voter? The one who asked about undocumented workers? Did you catch her name? Because the candidates sure did. They each asked her name. Romney asked, checked, re-checked. Then Obama got his chance, and also checked to ensure he had her name right. We need the Hispanic vote! We better get that name right!

And the bickering. When are we going to learn that the only way to moderate a debate is to bestow upon the moderator the power to turn off microphones? The most blatant abuse was when Candy Crowley stated that she had to move on, and Mitt Romney said, point blank, “No.” That was the trend all night. Talking at each other, over each other, over the moderator, around the topic, off the topic, returning to topics long-since-passed.

Zingers. One-liners. Gaffes. Social media trends. Focus-tested word choice. Oh, the focus-tested word choices. You say “illegal,” I say “undocumented.” The middle class has been “crushed” and “buried.” China “cheats.” The term “good-paying jobs” was big tonight, and has always bothered me. How is that grammatically correct? Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. If something is describing how something else pays, why don’t you use the adverb? I’m getting off track, and that’s exactly the point.

Tonight, I was a commodity. I was marketed to. Tonight, focus groups and advisers went to work to win my allegiance. And I was not convinced; I was instead entertained. This is similar to when you go to see the latest action movie and within minutes decide that it’s clearly a comedy even though it wasn’t intended to be. “So bad it’s funny,” you might say. Tonight, politics was so bad that it was funny. If only it wasn’t supposed to be so important.

On Taxes. I’m So Sick of Writing About Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I think I’ve finally made sense out of the rhetoric about Governor Romney’s tax plan; of the independent reports and of the “6 reports” that disputed the first report. I think I know what’s going on. It was hidden in Romney’s answers tonight, of all places. Listening to President Obama and Romney discuss Romney’s tax proposals reminded me of the old Highlights Magazines in doctors’ office waiting rooms. There are two pictures side by side, and you have to pick out the differences. They’re subtle, but they’re there. Did you hear it? Were you listening?

Here it is. Obama talks about the tax rates for the top 2% (generally couples above $250,000; individuals above $200,000). If you cut those tax rates by 20%, as Romney proposes, then there don’t appear to be enough deductions to eliminate to make up for the lost revenue just from that bracket.

However, Romney talked about the top 5%, and maintaining the same share of the tax burden as they currently pay (about 60% of income taxes). Now, first of all, maintaining the same share of the tax burden does not rule out a tax cut if everyone else is also getting a tax cut. But that aside, the 5% versus the 2% is how they make the numbers work. If the top 5% are getting deductions eliminated, then revenue neutrality can be achieved even if the top 2% are getting a cut, paid for by reduced deductions for the 95th-97th percentiles (the next 3%).

I don’t know the general income numbers for those percentiles, but I have a hunch that it lines up fairly well with Martin Feldstein’s defense of Romney’s plan which called for eliminating deductions for all those making over $100,000 a year. And thus, if you make between $100,000 and $200,000 as an individual or the equivalent tax bracket as a couple, Mitt Romney’s tax plan is likely to hurt you. And that’s what we learned in tonight’s debate. Obama’s plan hurts the top 2%. Romney’s plan will probably help the top 2% on the backs of the next 3%. And hopefully, I’ll never write about Mitt Romney’s tax plan again.

On How the First Segment of the Debate Should Have Gone

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

If you watched the debate tonight, you’ll know that for what seemed like forever, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama talked in circles mostly about Romney’s tax plan and what it would or wouldn’t do to various groups of people. It started out with Barack Obama mentioning some numbers that various independent analyses have estimated based on the general premises put forward by Mitt Romney. It went on into what looked like Obama endlessly harping on numbers and facts that Romney had already shot down quickly and with acuity. Without regard as to who was right and who was wrong, the segment (and many others) clearly looked to be “won” by Romney. But before we dig into what happened/should have happened tonight, a little background is in order.

Background

The general premises of Romney’s tax plan as it has been previously outlined are as follows: he will cut rates 20% across the board (that is lower each bracket to 4/5s of its current rate); he will close loopholes and eliminate/limit deductions in order to make up for lost revenue; he will promote growth through benefits to job creators; he will not raise taxes on the middle class.

The primary independent analysis of this generalized plan found the following: that the plan would cost $5 trillion in revenue over the next ten years; that you could not eliminate enough deductions to prevent this from resulting in a tax cut for the upper class; and that the plan would either result in increases in taxes to the middle class (through deduction eliminations that exceed their rate cuts) or abandon the goal of revenue neutrality, thus expanding the deficit.

A refute of that analysis stated that the math could be made to work… if you define upper income as $100,000 or more, then those below it will see no tax increase, and those above it will be revenue neutral; of course that would be accomplished by increases for many of those making between $100,000 and $200,000 and decreases beyond that point.

It’s all complicated and full of assumptions and guesses, mostly because the plan has not been made specific enough to be accurately scored.

The Debates

Again, Barack Obama referenced the numbers from the analysis, especially the $5 trillion in lost revenue going mainly to the rich and the potential for an increase on middle class taxes. Then, Mitt Romney claimed that he would do no such thing. Romney claimed that he would not create a net reduction for upper income tax payers, and he would not enact any plan that would lose revenue once accounting for growth (I have a feeling that his growth assumptions are likely a bit fudged, but everyone gets to make assumptions). What followed was a mercilessly long back-and-forth during which Obama said “$5 trillion” at least three more times, and Romney cleverly and repeatedly made the case that no one can say what his tax plan will or will not do because it’s his plan and he will only enact a plan that does none of those things. It was difficult to watch and it should have exposed some gigantic holes through which Obama could have jumped, but didn’t.

What Should Have Happened

Let’s pick up after Romney said that any tax plan he enacted would not reduce taxes on the wealthy, would not increase taxes on the middle class and would remain revenue neutral (not cost any money). Here’s a potential Obama response:

“Ah, this is one of those etch-a-sketch moments. Look, it’s easy to look good in a debate when you argue for a plan that is completely different than the one you’ve been proposing all along. For months, we have heard you talk about helping the wealthy–you call them ‘job creators,’ and many of them are. But we know what you mean: you mean the wealthy, and you have always touted that your plan would give back to them. For months, you have stated that your plan was to cut tax rates across the board by twenty percent and make up for the lost revenue through undisclosed loophole and deduction elimination. Well, that math didn’t work out very well–it couldn’t be done. Now, you are telling us that whatever plan you enact will be one in which the math works. So let’s hear it. You’ve had more than enough time, Governor, to come up with a plan that adds up and to share it with the American people. If you want to change your plan now, for this debate, on national television, why not give us the details, and I’ll debate them.”

Romney’s response likely would have involved several of the things that he actually did say during the circular clusterfudge of dialogue. They probably would have included that many papers came out to dispute those studies, that the math did work, and that he isn’t changing his tune. In the name of specifics, he likely would have trotted out exactly what he said in the real-world debate: “one way, for instance, would be to have a single number. Make up a number — 25,000, $50,000. Anybody can have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people. That’s one way one could do it. One could follow Bowles-Simpson as a model and take deduction by deduction and make differences that way.”

And then Obama could respond: “I understand that there are various reports that say various different things about Governor Romney’s tax plan and the numbers. I’ve read them, too. The ones that make Governor Romney’s math work do so by declaring those who make over $100,000 as part of the upper class, not the middle class. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that a lot of Americans making $100,000 would still consider themselves part of the middle class. A lot of them are stretched a little thin.

“I also want to point something out, and it’s important. I’ve noticed that Governor Romney talks a lot about the things that he will do or he won’t do. He says unequivocally that he will not raise taxes on the middle class. That he will repeal Obamacare ‘on day one.’ However, whenever he is asked for specifics, he doesn’t talk about himself anymore, and he doesn’t talk in absolutes. On taxes, he says ‘one could create a cap on deductions,’ and ‘one could follow Simpson-Bowles.’ He never commits himself to doing anything. He never reveals his true intentions. He doesn’t state that something should happen or will happen, but just that it could happen. Again, Governor Romney, you’ve had more than enough time to come clean with the American people on your tax plan. Do you keep the details of your plans secret because they’re too good? Is — is it because that somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them?”

That last piece of sarcasm was actually an Obama quote, but I felt like when he used it nearly two-thirds of the way through the debate and mired in a rambling health care answer, it lost some of its punch. If it was a closing line in the opening segment, maybe it carries a little more weight. But what do I know?

Anyway, I was frustrated with this exchange. I thought Romney basically equivocated his way around the tax discussion and turned it into a debate about whose numbers you believe. I think that Obama should have made it about the lack of specifics and played on the tendency of Romney to say different things about his plan to different people, making him seem wishy-washy at best, pandering and dishonest at worst. That wasn’t the only part of the debate that went poorly for Barack Obama. Hopefully soon, I’ll discuss what a failure his answer about the role of government was, and lay out my own.

On Why I am Voting for Barack Obama

October 3, 2012 4 comments

This is part 3 of a 3-post, pre-debate series on my feelings about each candidate and why I am voting the way that I am voting this November. Part 1, “On What I Don’t Like About Barack Obama,” can be seen here, and part 2, “On Why I am Not Voting for Mitt Romney,” can be seen here.

Before I really dive into why I’m voting for Barack Obama, I want to comment a bit on the decision-making process in general. I’m going into my third post on the candidates and my voting decision, and I have not mentioned Bain Capital, tax returns, or dogs on cars; I have also not mentioned hope, change, great speeches, dog eating, socialism, or birth certificates. I do not mention this to say that I’m better or above the typical voter, but because I think that most people feel this way. Most people do not want to make decisions based upon rhetoric and superfluous controversies, but it’s the bulk of what they’re fed and hey, they want to eat. I’m trying an alternative diet.

So I’ve already listed why I have some qualms about Barack Obama. And I’ve also explained why I would cast my vote against Mitt Romney. But I also greatly prefer to be voting for something, not just against other things. Despite the rhetoric that Barack Obama cannot run on his record, I actually think he offers a great deal for which I want to cast my vote.

Race to the Top

If someone were to tell you that they wanted to get a large number of schools to improve by only providing funding to a select few schools and they would do so by providing competition among schools and school systems, you’d probably say “that sounds like a pretty good idea, Mr. Republican,” and Barack Obama would say “Thanks, but I’m not a Republican.” I think that education needs to improve, but that we already spend a great deal of money on it–enough to have a much better education system than we currently have in this country. I believe that reforms should be more locally-focused, as different solutions work for different environments. Race to the Top takes all of these things into consideration and lets school systems use their own methodology to reach improvement standards in a competition for national funds to go farther. I like this program so much and I feel that Obama doesn’t get nearly enough credit for it.

The Stimulus/Bailout

This is a strange topic for me because I actually agree that the stimulus didn’t work. If you got an air conditioning system in the summer and set the temperature to 70 degrees and it cooled the house to 80 degrees, you would probably have to call for maintenance and certainly wouldn’t consider it to be a properly-operating machine. Normally, this level of disappointment would be considered a negative for me. However, the difference here is that there were very real calls for each of the following: a) do nothing, b) stimulate only through tax cuts, and/or c) simply take the amount of the stimulus bill and divide it up to American taxpayers and send them each a check. To return to the air conditioning analogy, it’s 110 degrees outside and humid and grandma’s going to die if we don’t get air conditioning, so I’ll take the one that doesn’t do the job as well as it could have or is supposed to. It’s annoying to rely on a counterfactual, but I have no doubt that the economy and the depth of the crisis would be much worse off without the actions taken by Obama.

Centrism

This one may be surprising, but I think that Obama is an ideological liberal who chooses to govern as a centrist. I think that he wants (or wanted) to work with Republicans and find common ground, but the fact is that there really isn’t that much on which they agree. That doesn’t mean that Obama hasn’t tried, though. If you don’t believe me, you should watch his 2011 State of the Union Address or his “pass this jobs bill now” speech. You can’t help but notice a number of times that he touts ideas that are or at some recent point were popular with Republicans, with many of them being Republican proposals.

Gay Rights

Mostly, I’m referring here to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I was in the Army when the repeal was announced and when it was made official, and maybe my unit was a little different, but no one seemed to care at all. Not a single work day was affected. This change was long past due. Standing up to support gay marriage was a nice gesture and many of my friends in the LGBTQ community appreciated it immensely, but I think the accomplishment of making a change to a stubborn institution like the military was incredibly significant. In a second term, I would hope for a continued expansion of rights for this community, and have reason to believe that it will happen.

Military Strategy

Another strange one. Things are not going particularly well in Afghanistan, I know. I have previously written that it is time for the troops to come home, and I wrote just two days ago about my mixed feelings about unmanned drone strikes. However, suffice it to say that I saw real changes made in Afghanistan that I think would have possibly sent the conflict in a different direction if they had been enacted earlier in the process, primarily rules of engagement that addressed the problem of creating new enemies with each attack, the embedding of Special Forces units into Afghan villages, and outreach to the female population who had been completely ignored for the first 9 years of the conflict. It was far too little far too late, but I thought them worth mentioning.

Completion

I will conclude my comments by stating that I want to see Obama’s policies played out through their completion. The rhetoric from the opposition that the president is running this country into the ground ignores the reality that the country had been run into the ground when Obama arrived. In the eight previous years, the country went from peace, surplus, and a dipping but still strong economy to two wars, doubled debt, massive deficits, and a financial crisis. These things may have been part of a broader trend over the past 30-40 years, but nothing was done in those eight years to stop the coming destruction. Barack Obama is moving incrementally in a different direction from the previous eight years–or at least attempting to do so. Before judging or cutting bait, I want to see where these policies lead, and I think that Obama has had enough successes in other arenas to earn the allowance of letting these policies play out.

On Straw Men Turning Pinocchio

August 3, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the most annoying things about the polarized back-and-forth banter that dominates our civil discourse is the incredibly common use of “straw man” arguments. Analysts from both sides build up a fabricated opposition position and rip it down while few, if any, of their opponents actually prescribe to the extreme version of the debate that has just been defeated. This is fairly commonplace on both sides of most issues, but the right wing news (such as Fox News and the talk radio networks) is exceptionally good at this, which is one of the reasons that I often find myself getting so frustrated while watching or listening to those stations.

However, what I find far more annoying is when those straw men make like Pinocchio and turn real because people in leadership or prominent positions stand up and fit themselves into those seemingly ridiculous straw man arguments. More and more lately, I have found that happening, giving phony straw positions the shred of credibility that they need to survive. Usually in these cases, the straw man argument still holds little water. Usually, those who stand up to fill the voice of the straw man arguments represent the fringes, not the norm. But even a little bit of substantiating information, even from the vast minority, can make a ridiculous or misleading argument seem more real.

When being trained in Psychological Operations with the Army, we were told repeatedly that credibility is your most valuable asset in information dissemination. If you get caught lying to a population, then your credibility is shot for the future. Similarly, the converse can ring true: if you can demonstrate a lack of credibility in the opposing point of view or its source, then the entire argument or sometimes even its associated ideology will begin to ring hollow.

I first decided to write this blog because I was reading a somewhat scathing report about Mitt Romney’s tax plan by the Brookings Institution and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Reading the methods of the report, I found that the numbers would probably stand up to close scrutiny, yet an assumption or two (particularly the assumed goal of revenue neutrality) might be debatable by the Romney campaign, if forced to address them.

However, the response from the Romney team did not address the substance of the report at all. It simply counted it among a number of “liberal studies calling for more tax hikes and more government spending” by Obama. It sounds like dismissing an independent report without addressing the merits as simply being a “liberal study” would be part of common straw man arguments about liberal intellectuals or tax and spend Democrats. But then you read that one of the three authors of the report used to work for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. And suddenly, dismissing the entire report out of hand might make sense, no matter how credible the numbers within may be. The credibility of the report itself has been compromised, predictably.

Another example of this is in the Chick-fil-A debate. I’ve already given extensive attention to the issue, but the way that it has been presented through the media deserves its own mention. Many outlets viewed this as a freedom of speech issue in that the CEO should be able to think and say whatever he so wishes. However, as many pointed out, freedom of speech is about governmental action. People have every right to protest, boycott, or otherwise raise hell (legally) based on what someone says. This should never be about freedom of speech. To mask this as an issue of persecution or a lack of freedom of speech seemed like a straw man argument, right? How easy is it to simply defend a CEO’s right to their opinion rather than defend the objectives of the organizations to which the corporation made donations or the importance of exercising choice in capitalism through boycotts?

Well, then mayors in a number of major cities (Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh among them*) have made statements either vaguely or directly alluding to the idea that they would try to block Chick-fil-A from operating within their cities. Suddenly, the government was in fact attempting to restrict someone’s rights based on their beliefs. Suddenly, this actually was a First Amendment issue. That should have remained a straw man, but alas it received enough credibility to transform the issue in many circles.

* (I did not include Washington D.C. here because the mayor’s remarks in full clearly stated that despite his disagreement, there is nothing he can do to restrict/bar the business)

And finally, as I am writing this, reports are breaking that the Justice Department is giving just a sliver of credibility to the old straw man argument that Democrats do not support or appreciate our troops by suing the state of Ohio over military voting laws. Granted, the lawsuit does not aim to restrict voting rights for the military in any way. Granted the Fox News coverage is misleading and unfair. However, the lawsuit targets a law that grants special voting allowances specifically to military members by stating that those allowances should be made for everyone. The lawsuit claims that the distinction between military voters and civilian voters is “arbitrary.” And so the statement that Democrats are unsympathetic to the military is now backed by a lawsuit filed to by the administration arguing (in different terms) that our troops aren’t special. And Pinocchio turns real.

On Celebrity Scientologists and Wealthy Republicans

July 17, 2012 2 comments

There is a common phenomenon among those who have experienced a near-death experience during which others have lost their lives. At some point, the survivor begins to ask themselves, “Why me? Why was I chosen to survive? How did I get so lucky?” Many survivors blame themselves, constantly harping on what they could have done to save another, or wondering if that other life would have been put to better use than their own life. This can manifest as a self-loathing feeling of being unworthy of the gifts that are given to you. To avoid that feeling, some people convince themselves that they survived thanks to their own skills, reaction, and instincts. Others may feel the need to justify their existence in this world, and use it as motivation to better themselves. The reactions of survivors could go a number of ways, but these are certainly common reactions to tragedies. So what does this have to do with celebrity Scientologists and wealthy Republicans? Everything.

A while back, when I was living in Los Angeles, my roommate’s best friend decided to join Scientology. As she went through the early stages and tried to inform/recruit us to join along with her, I learned several things about the religion. The first is that early on, Scientology is a practical guide to assist people in learning how to get their life in order, be happier, and help themselves. It’s only a little bit ironic that Scientology’s most visible face, Tom Cruise, spoke the quotable line, “Help me help you” in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, because that is what Scientology is all about at the lower levels, as Scientologists describe in this video from the official Scientology website.

As odd as it may seem that an organization helps people by teaching them that they don’t need help, that is the basic premise. You may remember Tom Cruise questioning the entire psychiatric industry as well as any and all psychiatric drugs on the Today Show. The message here is that drugs are unnecessary because there are ways to heal yourself. The primary practices of Scientology are based in “dianetics,” which is defined on the website as “what your soul does to your body through your mind.” It’s basically an extension of “mind over matter,” which adds on “soul over mind.” There’s actually a lot on the earliest levels of Scientology with which perfectly rational people would agree. And just like the fact that Ron Paul sometimes sounds like the only guy who makes any sense on one issue can mask the fact that he isn’t completely sold on the Constitutionality of the Interstate Highway System or the Civil Rights Act of 1964; practical, self-help advice and practices can mask a belief in aliens such as Thetans and Xenu that sort of sounds like the midi-chlorians from Star Wars.

I’ve probably gone into too much detail here about Scientology, but I want readers to know that I’m giving it a fair shot and also to understand why a vulnerable person in search of answers might be drawn to such a belief system. If you were stretched thin and someone said “The solution to all your problems lies within you and within your control. For a small fee, I’ll tell you how,” you might consider it. But the follow-up question is why would so many people who aren’t vulnerable–who in fact are powerful and famous and rich–be drawn to such crazy ideas when the practical benefits aren’t necessary? And the answer brings us back to the opening paragraph.

When a celebrity looks outside of his or her bubble and sees how people live in the normal world juxtaposed against how he or she gets to live, one might ask, “Why me? How did I get so lucky?” Some might even begin self-loathing; feeling as though they are unworthy of such a life, such success, such riches. Others, however, might need to feel like they are successful because they did something special; that anyone could be successful if they knew the secrets to getting there. Some might want to become members of an organization that preaches that the key to success and to happiness is from within you, that everything you can and do achieve is thanks to your ability to overcome obstacles from within: some may become Scientologists.

 

And that brings us to this:

If you own a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

– President Barack Obama

 

I think we can all agree that we’d like that statement better if it read, “You didn’t build that alone. Somebody else helped make that happen.” In the context of his speech, that would probably be a better fit with the intent of that line. It was a small statement that came as part of a long rant of sorts about the fact that people who have achieved success have done so through a system, a government, and a community that has created the environment in which that success can be achieved. Here’s the whole quote:

 

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I am always struck by people who think, “It must be because I was just so smart.” There are a lot of smart people out there. “It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.” Let me tell you something: There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you did not build that–somebody else made that happen. The Internet did not get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off of the Internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

 

It’s not altogether unlike the quote from Elizabeth Warren, which went viral as an image not so long ago, seen below:

These quotes represent a fairly common viewpoint: the idea that success is not attained within a vacuum; that success comes from a system and a community and that you need help or maybe even luck to get to the top. And I’m sure that you could find thousands of anecdotes about the guy whose public education failed him, he dropped out, he worked hard, had a great idea and achieved success with as little help as is humanly possible, but most of us would recognize this to be more the exception than the rule.

However, this is a viewpoint that Republicans–especially the wealthy ones and the ones that control the talking points–cannot accept. Here are some reactions:

Rush Limbaugh:

This is a bunch of people with miserable, meaningless lives, lying to themselves, trying to tell themselves that they matter. I think it can now be said, without equivocation, without equivocation, this man hates this country. He is trying, Barack Obama, is trying to dismantle brick-by-brick the American dream.

 

Mitt Romney:

I’m convinced he wants Americans to be ashamed of success. I want Americans to welcome and to celebrate success… I don’t want government to take credit for what the individuals of America accomplish.

 

The National Federation of Independent Businesses:

[The president’s] unfortunate remarks over the weekend show an utter lack of understanding and appreciation for the people who take a huge personal risk and work endless hours to start a business and create jobs. I’m sure every small-business owner who took a second mortgage on their home, maxed out their credit cards or borrowed money from their own retirement savings to start their business disagrees strongly with President Obama’s claim. They know that hard work does matter.

 

The Heritage Foundation:

That sound you hear is silence—as millions of small business owners and entrepreneurs were left speechless this weekend from President Obama’s latest insult.

 

Perhaps all of this is simply playing politics. Perhaps these people saw an opportunity to jump on Obama’s statements and swing or strengthen support within a target demographic. Or, perhaps some of these wealthy Republicans got a glimpse outside of their bubble and saw how people were living in the normal world juxtaposed against the life that they get to live. They thought to themselves for a minute, “Why me? How did I get so lucky?” And rather than risk the exposure to the possibility of self-loathing, they quickly answered, “I got here on my own. I got here because I worked harder. I got here because I am smarter and better than those people who want government help. Nobody helped me get here, and so nobody else should need help.” And so they joined an organization that espouses those beliefs: The Republican Party.